Who Am I? Personality Types for Self-Discovery

Why Do We Need to Type One Another? In my book, Nine Lenses on the Word: The Enneagram Perspective I found that it is instructive to reflect on why we spend so much time assessing and classifying one another. Here’s a hunch. Human beings are born with the expectation of finding regularities. Cognitive theorists inform us that our mind likes regularity and has a natural tendency to search for recurring patterns (1983). We need to discover or create a certain amount of order so we can predict and control what is going to happen in our environment as well as assess what effect our own actions will have on our surroundings. The most important objects in our environment are other people. It might be anticipated, then, that we look for regularities in people and seek to categorize them. Understanding ourselves and others gives us some predictability, control and comfort which helps us relate better. We have been typing and stereotyping each other for ages. Some have sought to categorize others informally, as in “blondes have more fun.” Others have attempted to categorize people more formally, such as ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs. Some typing has been life giving, like classifying different blood types so as not to mix them in transfusions. Other typing has been death dealing, for example, killing those of other tribes or traditions so as not to contaminate our blood or belief lines. There is both good and bad news about typologies. Like Everyone Else, Like No One Else, Like Someone Else Salvatore Maddi (1976) offered a scheme for studying various theories of personality. He noticed it was common for personality theorists to make two kinds of statements. One set describes the things that we all have in common and that are inherent attributes of human beings. These common features don’t change much over the course of living and they exert an extensive, pervasive influence on our behavior. So we are all searching for the good, philosophized Aristotle; or we all have a superego, ego, and id, analyzed Freud; or we are all motivated by a self-actualizing tendency, as Carl Rogers reflected. The other set of statements about personality refers to attributes that are more concrete, closer to the surface, and so can be more readily observed. These features account for the differences among people and are generally learned, rather than genetic. They have a more circumscribed, limited influence on our behavior. The concept of individual traits falls into this set of characteristics. In all the billions of individuals who have ever lived and ever will live there is only one Anne, the youngest daughter of John and Marie Jones with her distinctive temperament, experiences, and responses. As for those characteristics that are unique to each reader, we anticipate the publication of their autobiographies where those features will be properly extolled. Somewhere in between what we have in common with everyone else and what we share with no one else lies a partition of characteristics that overlap with some people but not with others. So we share our blond hair and blue eyes with some people but not with raven haired people with green eyes. Or we share a birthday range with people having the same astrological sign but not with others born in different months. Or we have some features in common with fellow extraverts that we don’t share with introverts. This is the realm of type. Typologies offer a taxonomy of the different styles of life that are possible.

The Enneagram Perspective

A typography I’ve found especially useful is the Enneagram (Any-agram) with its spectrum of nine personality styles. It’s quite comprehensive and provides a framework for pulling together many features we all share in common; it is remarkably perceptive in delineating the dimensions of nine different personality styles that we have in common with some people; and it leaves a lot of leeway for the particulars of our unique selves. With its numerous applications for personal growth, therapy, spirituality, education, business, etc., the Enneagram theory generates many helpful hypotheses.
In Greek Ennea means nine and gram means point. The word refers to a circle inscribed by nine points that is used as a symbol to arrange and depict nine personality styles. In its current formulations, the Enneagram brings together insights of perennial wisdom and findings of modern psychology. The figure itself is derived from arithmology while the nine personality styles are validated by experiential observations and, more recently, by experimental research.
Th e roots of the Enneagram are disputed. Some authors believe they have found variations of the Enneagram symbol in the sacred geometry of the Pythagorians who 4000 years ago were interested in the deeper meaning and significance of numbers. This line of mystical mathematics was passed on through Plato (who also contributed his ideas about higher and lower forms which become essence and ego or authentic self and compensating personality in the Enneagram system), Plato’s disciple Plotinus (who in the Enneads spoke of nine divine qualities manifesting in human nature), and subsequent neo-Platonists. Some believe this tradition found its way into esoteric Judaism through Philo, a Jewish neo-Platonist philosopher, where it later appears embedded in the branches of the Tree of Life in the Kabbalah. (Apparently to belong to this tradition your name had to begin with a “P”!) Variations of this symbol also appear in Islamic Sufi traditions, perhaps arriving there through the Arabian philosopher al-Ghazzali. Supposedly a group of Sufi s in the fourteenth century founded the Naqshbandi Order, known as the “Brotherhood of the Bees” (because they collected and stored knowledge) and the “Symbolists” (because they taught through symbols). This community is said to have preserved and passed on the Enneagram symbol.
Speculation has it the Enneagram found its way into esoteric Christianity through Pseudo-Dionysius, who was influenced by the neo-Platonists, through Evagrius and his catalog of logismoi and vices, and through the Franciscan mystic Ramon Llull, who distilled all philosophy and theology down to nine principles in his attempt to integrate Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions.
An Enneagram-like figure appears on the frontispiece of a textbook written in the seventeenth century by the Jesuit mathematician and student of arithmology Athanasius Kircher.
More recently George Gurdjieff , born in the 1870’s in the Caucasus region of what is now Russia, a teacher of esoteric knowledge and a contemporary of Freud, used the Enneagram to explain the laws involved in the creation and unfolding of the universe. He alludes to his acquaintance with the Enneagram in the 1920’s during his visit to Nine Lenses On The World: The Enneagram Perspective 20 the Sufi Sarmouni monastery in Afghanistan. Th is is the site of the Naqshbandi Order mentioned earlier. Quite appropriately, it is located near a great East-West trade route, where not only goods but also ideas crossed regularly.
In yet another culture and part of the globe, the Enneagram was taught by Oscar Ichazo (1976; 1982) as part of his Arica Training in South America. He found that the Enneagram (or Enneagon, as he calls the nine-sided figure) comprehensively organizes the various laws operating in the human person. So while Gurdjieff applied the Enneagram’s process to all of reality, including a rudimentary application to the human person, Ichazo made use of the Enneagram figure and dynamics to explain more fully the functioning of the human psyche. Ichazo claims to have arrived at his understanding of the Enneagram through his own independent studies and research.
Claudio Naranjo (1990; 1994), a Chilean psychiatrist, learned the tradition from Oscar Ichazo and brought the Enneagram further into Western psychology by elaborating and formulating in contemporary psychological language Ichazo’s explorations of the psyche.

Enneagram Values & Visions

Enneagram Values and Visions

Values orient and focus our vision. They tell us what’s important and what to live for.  From the Enneagram perspective there are nine sets of values and visions that are at the core of the following personality paradigms with their lenses on the world.
Lens One: You value and are attracted to goodness. You envision making the world a better place to live in. You want to realize all of your potentials and help others actualize theirs.
Lens Two: You value and are attracted to love. You envision making the world a more loving place to live in. You want to nurture others and foster relationships
Lens Three: You are attracted to and value productivity, industry, competence. You envision making the world more productive, organized, efficient and smooth running. You want to really make it a cosmos, a harmonious and orderly system.
Lens Four: You are highly individual and value originality and uniqueness.  You envision putting your personal touch on everything you are involved in. You also value beauty and want to make the world a more beautiful place to live in.
Lens Five: You value and are attracted to wisdom, understanding, knowledge, truth. You envision discovering what is real and true, understanding the world, and making it more intelligible. You want to make the world a more enlightened place.
Lens Six: You are attracted to and value loyalty. You stand by your commitments.  You envision making the world a safer, more secure, more reliable, more trustworthy place to live in.
Lens Seven: You want to enjoy life and experience all its possibilities.  You value joy and were born to play. You envision making the world a more delightful place to live in.
Lens Eight: You are attracted to, appreciate, and effectively use power.  You envision using your strength to influence others and bring about a more just world where power and resources are equitably distributed.  You want to live life fully and freely.
Lens Nine: You value and seek peace, harmony, unity. You seek to make the world a more harmonious, ecumenical, and comfortable place to live in. You want to feel at one and at home.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Jerome P. Wagner’s book, “The Nine Lenses on the World: The Enneagram Perspective – Enneagram Spectrum